The Wings of Morning - A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

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Parshas Shemos

On the Parshah: Fulfilling One's Potential
by Rabbi Yechiel Moshe of Kamaravke

"These are the names of the children of Israel." The Midrash teaches: "There are those acts are beautiful and their names are beautiful. There are those whose acts are beautiful but their names are ugly. There are those whose names are beautiful but their acts are ugly. And finally, there are whose are ugly and whose acts are ugly."

What is the midrash telling us?

As is known, our Jewish name indicates our soul.

There are those whose names are beautiful--who have a great souls--and whose acts are also beautiful, in accordance with their soul.

Some have a lesser soul. Still, their acts are beautiful, for they perfect their soul to such a degree that they remedy it.

Some have a beautiful names, because they have great souls. But still, their acts are ugly--they ruin their soul.

And so we should not imagine that if someone else has a greater soul--greater abilities--than we, than person is better than us.

Ultimately, what matters is our free will. Depending on what we choose and what we do, even a person with a lesser soul can achieve more spiritual greatness than a person with a great soul.

Niflaos Chadashos

When You Want to Improve Someone
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

Take a second look when you want to improve someone and remove him from his habitual path. Perhaps that path is actually good. Although it has its failings, they may be protecting that person from even greater failings.

May G-d guide us to be fair. Sometimes our inner drive entices us to enter a mode of improving everyone. This is actually a negative impulse.

We can be compassionate. And when we are, G-d, Who is compassionate, will remove all flaws. Midos Harayah, p. 92

Even a Pleasant Conversation
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

If we imagine we are rectifying universes with our service of G- d, but we don't know the worth of our soul--or, in general, the structure of spirituality--we will be filled with fantasies and delusions.

But we may know the following. With every moral improvement, every good trait, every worthy teaching and every good deed--even the very smallest, even a pleasant conversation--we lift the spirituality in our spirit. That spirituality is the foundation of all our spirit's being.

And so: by lifting the spirituality in our spirit, the entire being of our spirit is lifted. That individual reality is powerfully linked to all of existence. And so one part of existence has been elevated. And that in turn raises all of existence.

In this way, with every bit of goodness, we truly rectify endless worlds.

When we go on the path of this insight, our mind broadens. Our illusions diminish and come closer to truth.

Midos Harayah, p. 93

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

When tolerance of points of view comes from a heart that is pure and cleansed of all evil, that tolerance is not liable to chill the flame of holy feelings containing simple faith--which is the source of all life. Instead, that tolerance broadens and magnifies the foundation of heaven-directed fervor.

Tolerance is armed with a very great faith. Ultimately, it realizes the complete impossibility of a soul being emptied of all holy life. This is because the life of the living G-d fills all life. And so, even where actions come out in a destructive fashion, where points of view collide into heresy, there still must be--in the midst of the heart, in the depth of the soul--the living light of hidden holiness. And this is apparent in the good aspects that we find in many corners, even on those ravaged avenues touched by heresy and eaten by doubts.

From the midst of this great, holy knowledge and faith comes tolerance, which encircles everything with a thread of kindness.

"I will gather up all of you, Yaacov" (Michah 2).

Midos Harayah, p. 84

On the Parshah: New Arrivals
by Rabbi Yehoshua of Belz

"These are the names of the children of Israel, coming to Egypt."

Rabbi Yehoshua of Belz taught:

Why does the verse say "coming," rather than "who came"?

Commonly, when someone arrives in a foreign land, he constantly yearns to leave, because it is not his place. But once he settles there and becomes a resident, he is comfortable there.

This verse hints that Yaacov Avinu prayed that the children of Israel would he the strength to always be like those who are "coming," and still always desiring and yearning to leave.

"In [the days that are] coming, Yaacov will give root, Israel will sprout and blossom" (Isaiah 27:6).

This can be interpreted as follows: Yaacov Avinu rooted in the heart of Israel the sense of always "coming."

And in the merit of that, salvation shall sprout and blossom for them.

Niflaos Chadashos

The Land of Israel
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

The land of Israel is not some external entity. It is not merely an external acquisition for the Jewish people.

It is not merely a means of uniting the populace. It is not merely a means of strengthening our physical existence.

It is not even merely a means of strengthening our spiritual existence.

Rather, the land of Israel has an intrinsic meaning. It is connected to the Jewish people with the knot of life.

Its very being is suffused with extraordinary qualities.

The extraordinary qualities of the land of Israel and the extraordinary qualities of the Jewish people are two halves of a whole.

Eretz Cheifetz I

The Letters of Torah Hidden in the World
by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

A person who has overcome his basic drives can be said to rule over that energy known as the "days of evil."

When this person speaks with coarse people or observes their character traits, the evil that clothes the good immediately becomes as nothing and falls away.

The good consists of hidden letters of the Torah. And now these letters prominently stand forth. Now this person knows the Torah that was hidden within that coarseness.

The holy Zohar quotes the verse, "Bless Hashem, His angels, mighty in strength, who do His word, to listen to the voice of His word" (Tehillim 103:20). The Zohar comments, "These are people who have overcome their basic drives. They are literally like angels. They 'do His word': they actually do, or make, His word. 'To listen to the voice of His word': they merit the ability to hear voices from above" (Zohar Lech Lecha 90a).

The Torah is called a "word." As the verse states, "A word has He commanded for a thousand generations" (Tehillim 105:8).

The more the letters of the Torah are constricted and veiled, the more is the Torah hidden and concealed. When someone removes the veils from the Torah, it is as though he is actually making and building the Torah.

For instance, there are letters of Torah scattered and spread throughout gentile languages. No one knows of them, because they are darkened and veiled by the "days of evil."

But now this person, who is like an angel of the Lord of hosts because he has overcome his drives (the "days of evil"), arrives. Evil is subjugated and becomes as nothing before him. And the letters of the Torah prominently stand forth

At that point, when the physical veils are removed from those gentile languages, from those evil traits, from those "days of evil," then the letters of the Torah receive even greater light than they had received before.

At first, they had only received enough to sustain that place, in order not to give it too much....

But now that the letters are freed of those negative energies, they receive great light from above.

People on such a level "do His word, to listen to the voice of His word."

When they make and build the Torah that was originally scattered and spread throughout the languages of the gentiles, throughout evil traits, throughout "days of evil," they are able "to listen to the voice of His word." They merit to hear voices from above.

The word, which is the Torah, receives great light from above. This is how they hear the Torah.

This is what happened at Mt. Sinai. When the Jews received the Torah, they declared: "We will do and we will listen."

"We will do." First, one makes and builds the letters of the Torah--letters that stand out prominently and in proper combination (Yoma 73b). Then "we will hear." One is able to hear the voices from above.

Then the letters of the Torah receive much greater life force and light than they had at first, when they had been veiled in the gentile tongues and in the "days of evil."

Likutei Moharan I: 30

Sustaining the World
by Avraham Shoar

In his youth, the writer, Avraham Shoar, was the chavrusa (study partner) of Rav Kook in the beis medrash of Lutzin. He tells that young Avraham Yitzchak's diligence was extraordinary.

If a short amount of time passed without learning Torah, he felt real anguish: a actual physical pain:

One day (tells Avraham Shoar), he told me: "I have decided that two nights a week, we should learn mishmar (extended learning). Two nights a week, let us learn until dawn."

I remember one such mishmar night, typical of the character of this extraordinary man. We were learning Chulin from the Talmud together. We were engaged in halachic dispute. I stood my ground, and we argued at length, until we at last came to a shared understanding.

It was late. We were learning at the bimah. Around us was silence. In the adjoining dormitory, all the students were already asleep. Before us, burning above the holy ark, was the ner tamid--the eternal light. And we took a short rest from our toil and sat and conversed.

He said to me in a secretive voice: "Do you know, perhaps just the two of us are now sustaining the entire world. Perhaps the Holy One, blessed be He, is judging the world right now. And mankind's sins are being considered, and they outweigh the good.

"Now the angel Michael, the one defender out of a thousand, picks up the words of our Torah learning and places them on the scale, and our words of Torah help outweigh the other side. If so, we have merited to sustain the entire world. And we are still just children. This is the first year that I am wearing tefillin, and as for you, you are not even bar mitzvah."

As he spoke, I was lifted to the highest worlds. I could see, almost with my own eyes, the heavenly host: the fiery balance, angels and cherubim. They were weighing the acts of humanity, and behold, they placed upon the scale the page of Chulin that we were learning, with the commentaries of Rashi, Tosafot and the Maharsha. And this page gave merit to the entire world."

And as I sat, submerged in my visions, Avraham Yitzchak's voice continued.

And I heard him say with great simplicity: "A day will come when and I will be great in Torah.

"And then..." He touched me so that I would turn to him, and I saw his face burning, his eyes brilliant and sparkling like fiery coals set in milk. And he whispered: "I will go to the land of Israel, to the holy city of Jerusalem, and I will found a yeshiva there, like Kerem Beyavneh. And students from all over the world will gather there, and 'from Jerusalem will come forth Torah.'"

These were the youthful dreams of Rav Kook. These were his desires and yearnings when he had just become bar mitzvah.

Malachim Kivnei Adam, pp. 4-5

Holy as a Plot of Land
by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

Holy as a plot of land,
The Torah embraces you.
The Sinai is another world
Where spirit reigns without water.
Water the hills with your feet--
The color of the fruit is the color of eyes,
The color of hands.
The houses in Babylon disintegrate
And only the sound of Torah remains.
But here each brick is holiness.

In Jerusalem I have no dreams,
Only white stones.

All translations and original material. Copyright 1998

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